Bill Dixon and the Sound Vision Orchestra – Music – Review


“The novelty, the third great revolution in jazz, suddenly found its audience. Whitney Balliett wrote these words in 1965, imparting a serious subculture with minimal approval. According to him, the first two jazz revolutions were led respectively by Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker. The “new thing,” a looser but better term than “avant-garde,” seemed a little more surprising in its appeal.

What brought Mr. Balliett to his conclusion was the success of October Revolution in Jazz, a novelty festival hosted the previous year by a handful of intrepid musicians, and the Jazz Composers Guild, a collective of related artists. In both cases, the chief organizer was trumpeter Bill Dixon, although he did not receive full and proper credit at the time.

This story has more than occasional significance to the artists and audiences gathered this week at the Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts for the 12th Annual Festival of Vision. On Wednesday night, the festival honored Mr. Dixon with a Lifetime Recognition Award, recognizing how his early efforts still serve as a precedent. There was also the premiere of his last large-scale work, an untitled hour-long composition that confirmed the depth and vitality of Mr. Dixon’s art.

Mr. Dixon, an eminence of about 80, played the trumpet in the middle third of the room. Characteristically, his approach was both inventive and analytical, involving a catalog of textures ?? cracking, chuckling or huffing in different ways ?? with a ghostly echo effect. Behind him, his 16-piece Sound Vision Orchestra ventured into collective improvisation, drawing on a similar sonic palette.

The first half hour was more orchestral, beginning with a mysterious accumulation of timbres. Its prologue was a solitary cry on the soprano saxophone, followed by a thunderous rumble on the timpani. The crescendos came together, peaked and dispersed, with a bassoon and contrabass clarinet buzzing in one register and a line of saxophones floating in another.

Several times there was an abrupt, sudden calm, then a freeform solo cadence. Each of the cornet players in the group ?? Taylor Ho Bynum, Stephen Haynes and Graham Haynes ?? took one of them, starting unaccompanied and ending with full support from the set. Among other things, Mr. Dixon explored a balance between expansion and contraction and let players generate a number of internal arrangements.

For the last 15 minutes, he drove the group to full blast, a shocking release after so much measured tension. His conductor gestures were simple and emphatic: seeking more intensity from his drummer, Jackson Krall, he mimics the denigration of a cymbal. At another point, leaning on the saxophone section, he waved both arms and shouted “More!” », Causing the desired effect. Finally, he cut the storm short and pointed to the last section, an afterimage made up of long, ceremonial tones.

Mr. Dixon’s performance was one of the highlights of the Vision Festival; a solid subsequent set included pianist Marilyn Crispell, bassist Henry Grimes and drummer Rashied Ali. This weekend, the program will include rare appearances by the Ganelin Trio Priority (tomorrow) and South African drummer Louis Moholo (Sunday).

And the Orensanz Foundation will probably be full, as it was Tuesday and Wednesday. Mr. Balliett may or may not have been right that the new music suddenly found an audience in 1965; what matters is that he still finds one, and the sense of suddenness still applies.

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